New beginnings

Been mulling how to begin with this one. I have always been one to believe that a person has an indelible right to tell their story, from the heart, the gut, even if it makes others squirm a bit or uncomfortable.

The truth is, for a long time I’ve been afraid.  When my Mom passed in 2016, I really hit a downward spiral. I panicked at the idea of living on my own, and I was deeply bereft at the idea of leaving my childhood home, this time for the last time.

I remember how I got an apartment, then canceled on it, and was invited to stay with a college friend and her husband. Though my kid was not keen on switching schools, she soon adjusted and became enamored of her new district. I was too. For the first time, she was being bussed to and fro, she enjoyed the idea of all of her classes being on one floor, she relished in the new opportunities that lay ahead of her, and I appreciated the cheap rent.

At first, things seemed to be great. We occupied separate rooms (with the exception of the living room and kitchen), enjoyed having dogs in the house again, and I really enjoyed having a new family life to come home to.

Things took a turn just a month in, when my friend, Cris* (not her real name) demanded that I and her hubby Rick* (not his name either) get in her car as she had something to speak to us about. I could tell she was mad, but the idea of being *ordered* like a petulant child to go somewhere was anathema to me, especially in midlife. Still, I didn’t see much choice in the matter, so I went. She took us to a local park, got out and literally began jumping up and down and screaming at both of us.

I was fearing that I was about to get evicted, Rick just stood there with his hands in his pockets staring at the floor. She was mostly mad at him for shirking doing any household duties while she felt she was doing everything.

For me, she felt like I wasn’t holding up my end very well at all. I could see her point, but one thing became apparently clear–Cris doesn’t do grieving people very well. Yes, I could’ve been better at organization, neatness, etc. I just was hanging on. Everything seemed so overwhelming. She said to me that “my depression was making her depressed.”  As much as it hurt to hear that, I realized I had some improving to do, especially since my tenancy depended on her happiness, a crappy place to be, but where I was nonetheless. Out went grieving.

So, we stayed and got through the winter, the holidays, had some laughs, and when spring came, I got seeds to plant with, and was OK’d to set up a garden in the back. However, one day I came home, and she had moved all of my stuff to the back, away from the sunshine, and where it flooded. My growing season turned into a disaster.

We all have quirks, and I know living with someone else, even family is bound to be difficult at times. But as time wore on, we wore on each other. She would blast the tv late at night, so I got noise-canceling headphones. When it snowed, I would get a knock at 12am to move my car. My daughter rearranged the fridge to make it neater, but they let it go back to pot. She and I loved to cook, Cris freaked out that we’d burn the house down.  Even making Christmas cookies made her itchy. And yet, I grew up with cooking. It was a pleasure and a way to enjoy life. Time it seemed was working against Cris and I. She preferred to eat out, I wanted to save money and cook.

Towards the end of that following year, she hinted that she wanted us to find our own place. We tried, there was a local family that rented out parts of their home, but one of their illegal dwellings was infested with black mold and fleas. Other places were too expensive, and again I was trying hard not to have my kid switch schools yet again.

She would on occasion go into tirades, with me, with my kid, with Rick. One minute things would seem fine and the next she exploded.  She didn’t even have much sympathy for my daughter after she suddenly lost her dad. She snapped at her one day and my kid ran off crying. It reminded me too often of growing up with my mother, who would lash out with a slap and cutting words. So, I further learned to overcompensate and when Rick didn’t do his regular chores, I did. All I wanted was Shalom in the home, and it turned out nothing would have changed the circumstances for the better.

Finally, this past spring, things came to a head. Cris made a fire in the fireplace, but smoke was filling up the whole house (I suggested the flue was closed. Nope, they never cleaned the chimney). Anyhow, my kid, who has asthma, had an attack, and was furious with me for not speaking up. I was terrified to. And that’s when I realized I was choosing silence over my child’s health, and I spoke up. She regarded me with annoyance, and I pleaded with her just to open a window, turn the fire down, because my kid was suffering. She never did.

The next morning I was greeted with a text that told me we were to be out by the end of the following month. Not even 60 days. It broke my heart to tell my daughter, and the look on her face made me realize I never should have given up on that apartment.

The person I had known and trusted for over 20 years was now a stranger to me. She had  every right to have her home set up the way she wanted, but she had become a bully, and she enjoyed lording it over us, Rick included. I’ve since sat, wondering where this was all coming from, but it doesn’t matter.

I’ve also had panic attacks, chronic worry and stress over how I would provide for my kid and I. I want to say I’m cautiously optimistic. Yes, she’s going to have to change schools once more, but being in our own new place, being able to do what we want to do,  it’s a peace of mind that living with them I never had.

The sad unfortunate take away is that our friendship has changed, perhaps forever. She still has lashed out about things, and then she has periods where she is calm, almost the Cris I came to know and love. I have needed space, and am getting it. I’ve tried to talk to her about how I feel, and she has just been harsh and judgmental. So many people tell me this is not your friend anymore. I am now open to grieve, and the flood is overwhelming. The loneliness I feel has been truly like losing another family member. But I’m also furious. I haven’t spoken my peace. I know she has a lot to unload and I am done being kicked around.

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My I can’t believe this story

It was a breezy warm April morning & I had just left our motel room on the second floor, going down for a walk and inhaling the salty Florida tropical air. I was on the third day of my vacation, and it was beginning to relax my nerves. The sky was a friendly blue, the palms swaying gently, but doesn’t everything seem to look better in Florida?

As I turned my phone on, a reddish hued gecko made its way up the trunk of a nearby tree, embracing the day, much like I was about to.

My phone buzzed, an angry & distracting sound, then again and again. I had missed multiple calls. 3 were from my mother. I sighed inwardly, a deep thready response to her inability to separate from me. One was from my brother.

My mom began just curious, a bit needy about our vacation, missing us. Her voice drifted off by the third call, and she sounded tired, almost drunk. But her words were eerie: I love you guys and I always will.

It sounded like she was saying goodbye. I chalked it up to her usual machinations of obligation and the suddenness of being without a house full of people. It must be so silent for her now.

The next message from my brother came in quick & alarming.

Mom had a heart attack last night. She is in the hospital. Call me.

Immediately, everything dropped away, much like my knees as I slid to the pavement, cradling my phone so it wouldn’t fall. I reached him on the first ring.

She’s going to get a stent, you don’t need to come.

Every impulse in my body felt wrong, stunted. How could I just leave her behind? How could I not rush to her side? But he reassured me she would be OK.

It was late in the afternoon a day later when I found out this was not to be the case.

She coded on the table when they tried the stent. They told me I needed to make a decision, let her die or have open heart surgery. So, I did. I told them to make her have the operation.

During the operation, which at her 76 years she survived, there was several instances of coding, and ultimately she made it, but with a massive right hemisphere stroke. Her recovery was messy. She had to be intubated, out on a respirator, chest drain. She developed a large back ulcer from spending 2 months on her back. Her heels began to show signs of pressure sores forming beneath the skin.

The worst part was not being able to communicate with her. And in light of the fact that I had ignored her calls the night it happened, I felt I couldn’t forgive myself. How did I know this was going to be the last time I ever would speak to my mom? It haunted me.

And then came the days when she woke up & showed signs of improvement. By this point she had a peg (stomach feeding) tube, a tube in her throat, and her hands gloved so she wouldn’t fight back to take the tubes out.

We were hopeful. I was happy one day when she began mouthing words. They didn’t make a whole lot of sense at first, but I got her to understand what had happened, that she had been “out” for the majority of the spring, it was summer now. She was aggravated that she could not go home.

The next day was the 4th of July. It began much like any day, I had a good one, I spent some time on the porch, poring over documents to get my mother admitted to Medicaid and to stay in the nursing home she was in.

In the evening, I got several calls from a number I did not recognize. I was used to getting telemarketers, and this was nothing different, surely.

Until I checked them. It was from the nursing home she was in & they were urgent. Maybe denial played a huge part in why I didn’t call them back. I figured it was paperwork related. When I got on the phone, the worker on the other end was breathy, telling me in rapid fire that my mom had died and I needed to get a funeral home to take her because they didn’t have a morgue.

Wha-wha-whaaaaat?

My world was spinning, I was alone, it was night, and I had to find the strength to begin making arrangements.

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Complicated…

I was reading about grief the other day, and finally found a definition to cover what I’ve been going through…complicated grief.

It’s multiple deaths in a short period of time. For me, it’s not that, I am relatively at peace with all of them, it’s the silence. The quiet, the freedom. And it’s not a happy place.

It’s what Yentl was singing about when her father died: Papa can you hear me?

And laments about how the night is darker, the world has changed and she is all alone.

I am so thankful to have my brother. I don’t know how I would cope with the holidays if I had no other family.

A former boss said that the hardest thing about getting older is the funerals. And the realization that your number is ascending closer to the top (end of the line).

I just know that I am finding it hard to adjust to a new reality where the people I loved are no longer there to communicate with. And…the guilt.

Mom, I miss our talks. Dad, I miss bringing you things while you watched Sunday football. Missy, I miss talking & seeing you. Steve, I miss our wonderful talks, the laughs and being parents together.

I want to believe that we will see each other again one day.

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A reduction 

So, we just recently went through a layoff. It happened so fast, cold. It was one woman who is here for over 35 years, another one who is here about 30, and they were both told to leave without taking one item. These were trustworthy, good people. Then, I learned of the others. About 15 in total. I still feel like I’m walking through molasses, that shock you get after a car accident, when things are grey and you can’t fully hear, it’s more distant, like voices from down a hallway. 

I’m gonna miss these people, some I was looking forward to seeing their retirement party. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go. There’s this common misnomer that as you age, because of the effort put in, life won’t give out as bad hardships. You know that’s bullshit, right? 

I’m well aware of this as I am on the precipice of my 50s. And I feel a nudge to go reading at the library, polishing off business guides for older folks. Because I can’t kid myself that something wicked this way may come.

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13 Reasons Why?

Then I got distracted. My sister died suddenly, unexpectedly. My mother also died pretty quickly. So, you can probably guess why I didn’t want to finish this book & why I’ve made a half hearted effort to read it. 

I did watch a few episodes of the series, however, even the finale. I was struck by how sensitively and jarringly accurate they portrayed the effects of suicide ( and a rape survivor’s reporting of what happened to her). 

I was shocked by how her hs counselor failed her. He asked the typical bs questions many of us face when reporting: did you fight back, did you say no, blah fucking ignorance blah. That only serves to put up a further wall of shame between the survivor and the person questioning her. 

Even though I didn’t finish the show, I did get the gist of what was happening to the characters. 

Only once, did I experienced someone that I knew who committed suicide. She jumped off a parking garage in 1999, and was unidentified for quite a while. 

I think this is one of the best shows of this ever covered so many topics want to comes to teens. It’s ironic that my own daughter does not have any interest in seeing this. But I suspect that comes from the losses that both of us have experienced lately. My worry is she also identifies with the main character, Hannah. 

I think the experts that are crying for caution and not to watch the show have their heads in the sand. This is about teens, this is not about you. I wish when I was a teen back in the 80s that I had had something like this to rely on. Because regardless of if our frontal lobe’s haven’t fully developed yet, as the show trying to portray, we all need to feel that we’re not alone. That is what I wanted most of all. 

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Orphaned Adult

It happened a little over two weeks ago. My mother, after a complicated recovery from heart surgery, passed away suddenly in a nursing home, after just being there for several days. 

She went into the hospital while I was on vacation in Florida in April. I got the call, but was told not to come back because she was going to just have a simple procedure. Well, two days after that I found out the procedure was not going to happen as her condition was much more grave. 

Basically, my brother was given a decision: either let my mom pass away naturally, or go through open heart surgery. He opted for the surgery, naturally, because who would let their mom die right? 

I’m going to spare you too many details, but essentially she had a very bad recovery. She had a stroke right after the operation, and for two months was unable to communicate with us. In fact, she was in varying stages of a coma. And she was shuttled to different treatment centers. 

Along the way, she developed MRSA, an infected chest incision, and a back bed sore.  She also had to be fed by a PEG tube, and needed breathing support. 

I have come to find out quite a lot about the medical industry, and it’s incredible bungling in handling the elderly. Breaks my heart to know that my mother lived as a strong woman, and it died so weak in bed. 

I could give all the reasons as to how she ended up there, but right now I just know that I am in incredible pain. It would be unfair to speak ill of the dead. It’s incredibly strange that I just come home from work, and I just sit. It’s like I just can’t believe it. And it’s not just the loss of a parent, it’s the loss now of both. 

There is no experience quite as stunning as one there is nothing wear something has always been. – The Orphaned Adult

I know in my heart, but I want to get back to life. I have a lot more time now. I want to get back to going back to the gym, lose all this excess stress weight I’ve been carrying around worrying about her and filling out endless paperwork. I’ll get there.

But I am acutely aware of how alone I am. And how alone I feel. I was a very lucky person when my daughter was young, because I could count on my mother to watch her when I was going to work. My father was also there. I can’t tell you how much Family means to me. Now it’s just myself, my brother, my sister, and my daughter. It’s almost too painful to speak of.

People at work were so supportive and they are in my immediate time of grief. I still get people walking up to my desk. But then one friend told me that three months I’m really going to feel it. I don’t doubt it for a second.

I know how lucky of been that she’s been there my whole life. Just like my father. I’ve met people who’ve had to bury parents when they were themselves just beginning their adulthood. Or in the case of my ex-husband, at 9. 

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Success and then some 

My first weigh-in & I’m down 4.2. Rawr!! I was super nervous about a party I was going to, in fact I was going to not go, but I decided that if I’m really serious about this life change I need to go to places where food choices and situations won’t always be catered to me. And so I went to this party and I had quite an awakening. I mostly drink sparkling water and then I had a glass of wine. The world didn’t end. 

I even tried dessert. And I stuck to fruit and that was it. I did try some other desserts but I only had one bite of each and threw them out. That was my choice I didn’t do it because I thought that I had to. I didn’t want to finish them. And that is quite an epiphany.

I watched he saw other women eating and drinking and excusing their behaviors while lamenting the fact that they need to lose weight. I thought that doing those behaviors would’ve been in direct contradiction to what I am trying to accomplish. If I want to avoid diabetes, I’m going to do it. I don’t want to go back. I have been worried that my attitudes may get me into a situation where I am orthorexic . 

I’m also worried about what triggers will set me off on a binge. I did try some pizza this week but it was vegetable and organic. In the past, I have a list of foods that were off-limits. At least for a little while I wouldn’t eat them. Now, I find the focus is more on what will keep me healthy. And that has made all the difference.

It’s much easier now to avoid sugar, dairy, processed foods, even pork. I’m hopeful. 

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